I was twelve when I took my first jazz class at Dance Zone in Old Bridge, New Jersey thanks to my best friend Nicole who wanted to give it a go. Naturally gifted I was not, but beautifully ignorant I was. My abundance of energy and enthusiasm hid my lack of left foot, right foot finesse. I wore MC Hammer pants with sequence down the side and a killer side pony. I rocked out to the tunes of “Don’t Go” by Yaz. I was hooked.
The studio became my second home. Jazz, tap, and ballet ensued. I put on performances for my teachers and friends in between classes. I would come up with ridiculous moves, force them to watch, and if I was lucky, bring them into a fit of laughter. This was clearly the first glimpse of my creative genius. I, a little too excitedly, became an I Love Dance Sweetheart, a high honor in the I Love Dance competitions that I took stupidly seriously. I would be so nervous I would make myself sick to my stomach, hunched over a toilet before I performed solos.
I went to the Fine and Performing Arts Center (F.P.A.C.), a high school specialty program, where I progressed (slightly) from silly improvs and nervous solos to the more technical training I needed to keep me satiated. When it came time for the big college decision, I loved nothing more than dancing. My parents so beautifully supported my fantastical dreams, although they did suggest a dancing-doctor alternative. Off I danced to Marymount Manhattan College without a doubt in my mind.
I graduated summa cum laude with a B.F.A. in dance and a business communications minor, under the direction of Katie Langan. I didn’t graduate magna cum laude because I decided to take pointe for a semester and got a B, clearly ruining my entire GPA. I was nervous about choreographing a piece for the student showcase but opted to do it anyway. I fell in love with the thought process and craft and eventually gained confidence as a creative mind all my own; thank you Pat Catterson. My piece Naked Branches received the Alpha Chi award. I danced the works of Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Robert Battle, and Doug Varone. I people-pleased and was a wonderful student; I knew how to follow the simple equation of “do this well and get rewarded” – regardless of whether this process was connected to greater learning. Denise Vale helped mentor me into breaking that mold of being “good” for the sake of discipline and challenged me to make choices of my own. This lesson didn’t quite manifest entirely in these years, although it started. I was so wonderful at taking control and doing well that I gave myself an eating disorder to be the thinnest, “bestest” dancer.
My first professional job was with Buglisi Dance Theatre. I performed her masterpiece Requiem, which still holds some of my most fulfilling dance moments. It took me 20 minutes to hop, squat and wiggle into some of Jacque’s costumes. I ripped some doing a contraction. Those moments hit too close to home. I was inspired to create magic next to Graham dance legends and learned what it was to be fully immersed in one’s craft. At times during partnering work, I felt under appreciated and seemed to be viewed as a less competent dancer. Sometimes I was a fool and believed my partner. My fire started to wane as the months doubling as a waitress/bartender/administrator wore me down and made me feel less in the zone of an active performer. I worked with Take Dance, Maxine Steinman, and Sue Bernhard and performed as a guest artist with Shen Wei Dance Arts. I scrambled to keep dance projects in my life. It took a lot of energy to feel like I didn’t have an expensive hobby.
I found my next home in Parsons Dance. I toured the world. I gained the most open and beautifully dysfunctional dance family, that I will always love. I got my fire back. I felt like a dancer. I had a reason to train hard. I felt I had zero creative potential because movement I choreographed was not always seemingly valued or used in new works. I fell numerous times on stage. Once, twice in the same show. In the same piece. On the same pool of sweat. Within the same 16 counts. I thought I needed to be sexier to be more appealing and valued as an artist. This attempt was stupid, untrue, and an utter failure. I gained the opportunity to do the works of Kate Skarpetowska, Robert Battle, Monica Bill Barnes, and Natalie Lomonte. I proudly performed solos within some of these works. I stopped giving a shit about what David thought of my dancing, or anyone else for that matter. Subsequently, that’s when David and everyone else seemed to appreciate my craft the most. I shared dressing rooms with girls who talked about being bloated and I needed to remind myself that this banter was crazy – we all looked beautiful. I had some of the best male partners to be gracefully tossed around with night after night. I didn’t always agree with how the company operated (hello job). I had too much fun dancing to care. I felt like I could fly. I conquered some of the hardest performances of my life – raked stage, lack of oxygen, 6 pieces in a row, ripped costume, learning a piece in a few hours and performing it that night, under-rehearsed with a fresh partner, you name it. It transformed me into feeling like an untouchable dance super-human.
I crazily left my loving home at Parsons Dance in search for the next challenge and opportunity to grow. I’m thrilled to start this next chapter and simultaneously saddened because I don’t know when my next moments on stage will be. Most importantly, I have faith those dance highs will come again, and better yet, surprise me with even deeper, richer experiences to cherish.
While I continue on my ever-changing dance journey, I also share my love of dance with “regular” New Yorkers through teaching, and now also managing, Figure 4, a barre based fitness program on the UES and UWS of Manhattan. I created Figure 4 Fierce, a dance cardio class, so I can continue to see people who don’t necessarily dance for a living move their bodies, smile, and get the results they love. I am a N.A.S.M certified trainer so I can extend my own teaching disciplines in the privacy of New Yorkers’ apartments. It is my joy to bring some of my artistic thoughts to everyday exercises and get people moving and thinking on a deeper, more effective and fulfilling level. I am my most inspired teaching self when I too am actively performing and perfecting my craft.
I am a forever-performer, teacher, and founder of Living-Dance – a place where we artists and “regular” New Yorkers alike can dance and celebrate ourselves, stay inspired, and turn our weaknesses into our sources of strength.